AspireAssist Stomach Pump for Weight Loss

Aspire Assist for weight loss
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The AspireAssist is an FDA-approved weight loss device that allows patients to empty a portion of their stomach contents after eating to facilitate weight loss. Sometimes called the aspire assist for weight loss or the stomach pump for weight loss, the device has received mixed reviews in the health community.

Overview

There are several non-surgical devices approved by the Food and Drug Administration to help overweight and obese individuals lose weight.

AspireAssist is one of them. Approved by the FDA in 2016, it helps reduce the number of calories absorbed by the body so that weight loss happens.

The stomach pumping device is only approved for patients with a body mass index (BMI) of 35 to 55. These are people with Class II to Class III obesity and who have a very high to extremely high risk for disease as compared to normal weight individuals.

But just being obese does not make you a good candidate for the Aspire stomach pump. If you are considering the device, you should have already tried traditional weight loss methods without success. And you must be willing to change your lifestyle. Counseling is provided to help you change the type of foods that you eat, the quantity of food that you eat and other daily habits. Eventually the device is removed and it is the lifestyle habits that will help you keep the pounds off for good.

There are some patients who are not good candidates for AspireAssist.

These include:

  • patients with uncontrolled high blood pressure
  • patients that have difficulty swallowing or digesting food
  • patients who have had radiation treatment to the chest or torso
  • patients with persistent stomach ulcers or stomach pain
  • people with lung or heart disease
  • and patients with eating disorders, including bulimia, night eating syndrome, or binge eating disorder

    Both the and FDA and the Aspire Bariatrics website provide a more comprehensive list of patients who should not use the device.

    How It Works 

    You do not need to undergo surgery to implant the stomach pumping system. The procedure is performed with an endoscope, so only a small incision is required. You'll be under twilight (light) sedation during the procedure and it takes approximately 15 minutes to perform. Most patients are able to leave the doctor's office within two hours.

    Once the Aspire Assist device is in place, you'll have a flat, disc-shaped button (the Skin-Port) on the outside of your belly that connects to a tube (the A-tube) on the inside of your stomach. After you eat a meal, you wait about 20-30 minutes before connecting a small discreet pumping device to your Skin-Port. The device allows you to empty about 30 percent of what you ate into a toilet or other receptacle for disposal. The emptying process take about 5-10 minutes to complete and should be performed in a private space like a bathroom.

    Because you empty a large portion of the food you eat at mealtime, your body doesn't absorb those calories. This helps you to create the calorie deficit needed for weight loss and some patients slim down as a result.

     You'll also receive medical checkups and lifestyle counseling during the time that you have the device in place. The healthy habits you learn during counseling can help you to maintain your AspireAssist weight loss after the device is removed.

    Anticipated Weight Loss  

    As with any weight loss device or program, your results will depend on your adherence to the program. There are techniques that you'll learn after the pump is in place that will help you lose weight effectively. For example, patients are advised to chew their food slowly to aid in the emptying process. Slow, mindful eating also allows the brain to recognize signs of fullness so that you eat less food.

    When researchers studied weight loss with the device, they compared patients who received the stomach pump along with weight loss counseling to patients who received counseling alone. In total, 171 patients were studied, 111 of whom had the pump inserted.

    After one year, the patients with AspireAssist lost an average of 31.2 pounds (approximately 12 percent of their total body weight or 31 percent of their excess body weight).  Patients with counseling alone lost an average of 9 pounds (roughly 10 percent of their excess weight or 3.5 percent of their total body weight). Patients in both groups saw small improvements in obesity-related conditions including diabetes, hypertension and quality of life. Studies are ongoing to see how many patients maintain the weight loss over the long term. 

    Side Effects

    You may experience certain side effects if you choose to use the stomach pumping system for weight loss. According to the FDA, endoscopic procedures are associated with risks including pain, abdominal bloating, indigestion, bleeding, infection, nausea, vomiting, or sedation-related breathing problems.

    But the Food and Drug Administration also says that the most common side effects seen in the clinical trials were related to the tubing implant site. Side effects included bleeding, irritation and infection. Other complaints included pain, nausea and/or vomiting, abdominal discomfort, and a change in bowel habits.

    Costs

    Currently Aspire Assist is not covered by most insurance plans. That means that you'll have to pay out of pocket for the device, medical care and lifestyle counseling. The total price of AspireAssist weight loss is estimated to range from $8,000 to $13,000.

    Reviews and Concerns 

    Because the AspireAssist uses a non-traditional and some might say "extreme" method to help you lose weight, there have been concerns expressed by some experts in the health community. Some patients may also have questions about whether or not vacuum weight loss is safe and whether or not it will really work.

    One of the most common concerns is related to lifestyle changes. Consumers and health experts alike wonder if this device really helps people to change their eating habits or if it simply gives them an easy way to dispose of excess calories.  Some may even wonder if patients might eat more food as a result.

    Aspire Bariatrics says no. According to their website, "There is no evidence in our clinical studies of patients using the device as an excuse to eat more, or eating more to compensate for aspirated calories. In fact, clinical data indicate that patients exhibit better self-restraint, less disinhibition, and no tendency to binge eat."

    But leaders in the eating disorders community disagree. They feel that using the device can lead to unhealthy behavior.  Eva Maria Trujillo, MD, FAED, is the president of the Academy of Eating Disorders. After the FDA approved AspireAssist, she gathered leaders in the disordered eating community and sent a letter to the organization asking them to revoke approval of the device.

    "As experts in the field of eating disorders, we believe that this device is dangerous and represents a truly disturbing incidence of technology serving to perpetuate pathology," she wrote, expressing concerns that stomach pumping can be used to help patients continue unhealthy eating behavior. "Though the FDA has stated that this product is not intended for use on people with eating disorders, we consider this disclaimer to be woefully inadequate due to the under-diagnosis of people with eating disorders, specifically binge eating disorder and higher weight anorexia nervosa."

    In media interviews, other physicians, nutritionists and weight loss experts have expressed concern over this unusual method to treat obesity. But sources who support AspireAssist say that since traditional approaches continue to provide limited results in the treatment of obesity, then this method should be available to patients who want to slim down to improve their health.

    Comparisons With Other Methods 

    If you are considering a medical treatment for weight loss and you don't want to undergo surgery, there are several options for you to consider. Most experts recommend that you try traditional diet and exercise approaches first. Your health care provider may be able to refer you to a registered dietitian, physical therapist or behavioral health specialist to provide personalized assistance.

    There are also prescription weight loss medications that you can discuss with your doctor.  But if those options don't work, there are four non-surgical obesity treatments that are identified by the FDA.

    • Gastric emptying (like AspireAssist). This option is not covered by insurance and has some, but not overwhelming support from the weight loss community.
    • Gastric bands (also called LAP bands) have become a well-established method for weight loss in obese and (some) overweight patients. This method can cost up to $15,000 but may be covered by insurance. The method also carries risks and side effects.
    • Electrical stimulation systems (like vBloc) in which an electrical stimulator is placed in the abdomen to block nerve activity between the brain and stomach. This method is about the same price as weight loss surgery (approximately $18,000-20,000) and may not be covered by insurance. It has also received some limited support from health care providers.
    • Gastric balloon systems, like Orbera or ReShape, take up space in the stomach to reduce the amount of food you can eat. Costs range from $6,500  to $10,000 and are usually not covered by insurance.

    The best source of information about the weight loss method most suitable for you is your health care provider. Talk to your doctor about your health history and your concerns to find a method that fits your budget and your lifestyle.

    Sources:

    Aspire Bariatrics. Non-surgical weight loss procedure. http://www.aspirebariatrics.com/about-the-aspireassist/.

    Aspire Bariatrics Healthcare professionals - AspireAssist non-surgical weight loss procedure. http://www.aspirebariatrics.com/healthcare-professionals/.

    Scientific American. Stomach-purging weight-loss device draws backlash against FDA approval. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/stomach-purging-weight-loss-device-draws-backlash-against-fda-approval/.

    U. S. Food and Drug Administration. Medical Devices-Recently Approved Devices. AspireAssist - P150024. http://www.fda.gov/MedicalDevices/ProductsandMedicalProcedures/DeviceApprovalsandClearances/Recently-ApprovedDevices/ucm506551.htm

    U. S. Food and Drug Administration. Obesity Treatment Devices. Products and Medical Procedures. http://www.fda.gov/MedicalDevices/ProductsandMedicalProcedures/ObesityDevices/default.htm

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